After a temporary hiatus, “Talking to Canadians” returns!
Episode 6 features Part 1 of my interview with Susan Toth, a lawyer, civil litigator, advocate, activist and professor here in London, Ontario.
I say “Part 1” because my conversation with Susan was very extensive. Ryan O’Connor and I believe that listeners should be treated to that conversation in its entirety. I found my exchange with Susan enlightening and educative and I came away feeling very gratified that I was given the opportunity to ask her questions and to be treated to her replies.
This episode is entitled “It’s not a justice system, it’s a legal system.” Those are Susan’s words and when you listen you will know why she uttered them.
Ryan and I would again like to thank Susan for giving so much of her time to us. It was truly a pleasure for me to speak with her and I am delighted to be able to share our conversation with you.
Excited to report that next month I will be introducing the London Oral History Project to the new councillors of the London Youth Advisory Council. My hope is that training and research/interviews will begin this summer.
“It is dangerous to encourage people to talk -to express their feelings in words, to shape their ideas into coherent forms. The person in charge cannot predict what will happen; he cannot control the words. It is an open situation, and everyone becomes more vulnerable, more exposed, and thus more equal.” -Nancy Milio (from 9226 Kercheval: The Storefront That Did Not Burn, 1970)
Since January of this year, I have been employed as a full time Guide at The Infinity School here in London, Ontario. (http://infinityschool.ca) I work there in addition to running DEMOI.
I wrote this essay explaining to parents and interested parties why I sought employment at Infinity and it is featured on the school website. I would like to share it here:
Why I Want To Work Here At Infinity
My first full time teaching position was at a Charter School in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2002, I was fresh out of graduate school and looking to teach in an environment that valued creativity and intellectual rigour. For those not familiar with Charter Schools, they are an attempt to reintroduce the concept of the Community School in cities and towns across the United States. The institution that hired me was brand new and founded by a group of concerned parents who wanted to make sure that their daughters and sons were receiving a world class education and who were prepared to take a chance. This new school not only attracted eager families who were excited about becoming educational pioneers, it also drew young and energetic teachers who were zealous about bringing high performance learning to children and young adults. This school, Ridgeview Classical, has gone on to become one of the top performing schools in Colorado.
That first work experience, I believe, spoiled me. I learned right off the block what it means to work in a school characterized by frisson and daring; a school that thought of its educators as co- learners alongside their students. It was a school that also encouraged unconventional methods like Socratic learning and it was there that I discovered that I was a Socratic thinker and learner.
As I continued on, working in public, private and even university classrooms, I found that what I was seeking was, in fact, a return to that energy and sense of adventure I had encountered in Colorado. I knew that what I wanted in a teaching position was the freedom to float away from standardized tests and state/provincial mandated curricula and to encourage children and young adults to design and implement their own learning programs. This has been a journey that has taken me across three U.S. states and into Canada.
In 2013, I founded my own private teaching business here in London. That business, DEMOI Independent Learning, was designed to offer interested families the freedom of pursuing, in depth, a humanities and social sciences curriculum that I would co-design with their children. This proved to be a very rewarding experience, both in terms of the pedagogical challenges I faced and because of what I learned about starting, managing, and marketing my own business (I had never been an entrepreneur before). I literally started from scratch and had to discover how to earn the trust of potential clients and figure out just what it was I was offering to a marketplace already packed full of tutors and tutoring services. I think it is important to mention this because I appreciate, I believe, the challenges and risks of going out on your own and starting something brand new. The advantage of working at an established institution is that you get to trade on its reputation; when you are starting something new that reputation is entirely in your hands.
When I learned last year that Andrea and Vineet Nair were establishing the Infinity School I was excited because I recognized that this was an institution whose pedagogical, philosophical, and personal values were closely aligned with my own. The first clue I received was discovering that Infinity would follow “The Hero’s Journey,” a concept developed by that great scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell whose works I know well and had used with my students for years. I was impressed by the Nair’s dedication to pioneering a new type of school in Canada and it thrilled me to think that London would introduce the first Acton Academy to the country. As someone who helped pioneer a new school way back in 2002, I was delighted to think that I might be able to do so again.
As any educator knows, gaining the trust of parents and their children is essential and not to be taken lightly. And as every parent knows, the process of awarding that trust is delicate and requires that certain, often inchoate, needs are met. I am fortunate to be both a parent and an educator and this has led me to appreciate even more just what is happening here at The Infinity School. I know that I have found a home.
Delighted that the next issue of Word Fountain will feature my poem “Fold’s Point.” Also pleased to learn that Vox Poetica will be featuring my poem “Fishes and loaves.”